PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — Almost 30 years after a family began searching for a missing loved one, the mystery has been solved, thanks in part to Ancestry.com and the Pinellas Park Police Department.
- Maurice Cooksey Jr. known to family as "Buck"
- Cooksey Jr. 37 years old when last seen in 1989
- Mystery solved through DNA submission
Maurice Cooksey Jr. was affectionately known to his family as "Buck." He was 37 years old the last time anyone saw him alive. That was in 1989.
His brother, Olin, described him as a good man.
“He was great," he told us. "He suffered from mental illness the last 15 years of his life. It was very difficult for him."
“My mother had always looked for years, and I was always under the impression that there was a missing person’s report filed back in 1989,” Olin said. “He was under the care of a guardian through the VA, and when he went missing I was under the impression that the VA or my mother filed the report. Well, no one did.”
A new search
After their mother’s death last year, Olin said he went on a search of his own for his brother.
“A couple months ago I submitted my DNA to Ancestry.com," he explained. "I found out about the National Missing Persons and Unidentified Persons website and I entered his information into that."
Soon after, Pinellas Park Police reached out to him, and the solution to an almost three-decade-old mystery began to unfold.
“I was in shock,” he said. “I was at work when they called me, and I at first thought it was because they found DNA, but it was actually the report that I put on NAMUS, and they asked me if I could come down and look at some photos to identify, and I said sure.”
Closure, at last
Detectives had found his brother Maurice. According to a 1989 police report, he was killed crossing the street on the 4600 block of Park Boulevard after running off from a medical facility.
Olin said he broke the news to the family.
“I told them, 'we found Buck. We found him,'” he said. “I was surprised, but the more I think about it, it was a cold case and that’s what they do. They hold on to it until they close the case. And now my brother can have a decent burial.”
Olin said he also found out that investigators had been trying to solve his brother’s case for years. They added his information to the National Missing Person’s registry in 2008.
“Bringing closure both to the family is bittersweet," said Pinellas Park Police Sgt. Mike Lynch. "For them to find out that their loved one is deceased, but yet, they now know at least what’s happened to them, and certainly all of the investigators over the years that have put eyes on that case and even the original traffic homicide investigator. To be able to bring some sort of closure to them, at least to put a name to the face, is certainly a good thing as well.”
The family plans to have funeral services for Maurice.
The Pinellas Park Police Department, meanwhile, said working with the medical examiner’s office they were able to preserve photos and all of the evidence in this case over the years. They say this case should give people hope to find answers if they have a missing loved one.